How many times in your career have you totally and wholeheartedly disagreed with your boss? It’s a tricky situation. You don’t want to hurt the relationship, but you want to do right by the company, client or customer, and you’re compelled to say something.
So what’s the right approach? Here are some proven strategies I share with my coaching clients on how to disagree respectfully—and, in particular, how to disagree respectfully with someone who’s above you on the org chart.
Gather feedback. Before you approach your boss, get feedback from someone you trust about your idea and how you can be more persuasive. Encourage them to poke holes in your theory and ask questions like . . . well, like a boss.
Seek out expert opinions. Make sure you have advance contact with a subject-matter expert—someone recognized within your company or network for their knowledge of the topic. They’ll be able to provide you with a point of view you might not have thought of on your own.
Rehearse your ideas. Practice your pitch with a few people you trust. If you you can’t get them to see your point of view, either try a different approach or consider hanging it up for a while.
Be mindful. Once you’re ready to approach your boss, it’s important to be mindful. If the issue is something you feel strongly about, ask yourself whether it’s worth a fight if it comes to that. Remember, if you make everything combative you won’t have much to draw on when something truly important comes along. Make sure your opinions hold together logically; a clear-headed argument is almost always better than a passionate one.
Leave emotion out of it. Pull together data, charts, spreadsheets and any other hard evidence you can to support your point of view. Stick to the facts and don’t make it emotional.
Listen to learn. Make it a point to listen to your boss, which is only respectful after your boss has listened to you. Most situations have something to teach everyone involved—maybe it will be you, maybe your boss, maybe both. In any case, you want to come across as someone who isn’t afraid to speak their mind but who’s driven by commitment to the organization.
Evaluate to review. When it’s all over, review and evaluate how well things went. Ask yourself how your role in these conversations has grown through the years. And if it didn’t go well, ask yourself what can you do better next time.
Lead from within: Disagreeing with someone is not a bad thing. It’s howyou disagree with that person, especially when it’s your boss, that matters.
standards for hard work and integrity.
Leadership may be hard to define and good leadership even harder, but if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, rest assured—you are a great leader.
Lead from within: Before you become a leader success is all about growing yourself; after, it’s all about growing others.